Looking back over the years, I have been drawn to so many different types of music. But all in all, I never fell away from rock and metal. From speed metal and thrash, to progressive and hair metal. Never can get enough.
Now with that said, I had a chance to talk to Patrick Kennison, Co- founder of Union Underground, currently the lead guitarist and vocalist of Lita Ford and Lead vocalist/guitarist of Heaven Below. His journey spans decades of music.
VIMH: Hey Patrick, thank for calling in, how’s it going?
PK: How you doing brother!
VIMH: What’s in store for 2019?
PK: Let's see here... We are at the beginning of 2019, and I’m getting ready to hit the road again with Lita Ford, of course. It’ll be next month, and we kick it off in Florida. In the meanwhile, I've been working on my Heaven Below project. We have cover album coming out this year, called, “Rest In Pieces”. It's all songs from people that have left us and it is one of those things that just grew and grew. We were hoping to have it out already, but we do have a couple surprises lined up for it. Just finishing that up, then hitting the road with Lita.
VIMH: You co-founded the Union Underground in the early part of 2000-2001, now, playing along-side of Lita Ford, and your band Heaven Below. Can you walk us through the timeline?
PK: Absolutely. The first thing, Union Underground had its success in 2000, the album came out, we were playing Ozzfest, toured with Manson, recorded the theme song for the WWE, and that kind of shit. It was all going great until about 2003. It all went to shit. It wasn’t just us, it was a lot of bands, that were off the label, at that point. Union Underground had a lot of cliche problems that you saw on behind the music. You know, bands did in 10 years, we did it in two years.
So, I wasn't going to go back to my hometown of San Antonio, and sit at the bar, and act like I was the local Rockstar. That didn't sound good to me. So I came out here to LA, and one of my first gigs was, I got to record on Rob Zombie greatest hits album. I played on is bonus tracks. I was like, “this is cool”, and I was doing a lot of studio work, and just staying busy, and before too long, I ended up in Lita Ford’s band. Then I had formed my own band called Heaven Below. So that's kind of what got me where I'm at now. I just make sure to stay busy, you know? This is Los Angeles, all the stereotypical cliches and more. You just have to stay busy. You can't sit back and let the politics let you down or any of that BS. You just gotta keep dredging. You gotta keep moving forward and keep busy. Have have to please yourself. I always say don't chase the carrot. You know I'm always tell people that I play in bands with, or what I'm working with on something, Don't try to be cool, or popular. If banjos and beards are popular, don't grow a beard and play a banjo, Unless you happen to be great at it. You have to stick to what makes you happy. For me it's been doing Heaven Below. Originals, a concept album we did with a bunch of cameos from legendary friends, and now doing a cover album. There’s nothing ground-breaking about it, but we're putting our own stamp on it with the whole departed people, who are gone, and we’re doing it for ourselves, really.
VIMH: What are your influences starting out and when did you start?
PK: Man my whole musical thing starts pretty early. I'm the youngest of seven kids. My parents have been married for over 60 years, and there was a lot of music in my house. Just even coming out of the crib, I remember hearing Aerosmith, Judas Priest, ACDC, Cheap Trick and all that stuff. I got a guitar in my hands when I was 11 years old, and kinda tinker around with my brothers.. My mom noticed that I was really into that, and not into sports and all the other stuff the kids do. So, I just dug into it man. I had a great time with it. I kinda went from being this weird kid, to the kid that can play guitar, you know? And it just kept growing, until I had bands and would win guitar competitions and started writing my own stuff like that. I just stayed with it. Really, that's kind of how I got my start. That was the 80’s, when I was a little kid. By the time the 90’s rolled around, I got out of high school, I had one of the better, I would call it, one of the best bands out of my hometown with the Union Underground. And we got a record deal. So I just stayed with it man, and not get too distracted, with drugs, girls and drinking. I did all those things, but I just didn't stay with them.
VIMH: I know you are you have a singing background. Please elaborate.
PK: I feel like I've always been able to sing. When I was a kid, I didn’t have the balls to sing. I remember one of my first gigs, we played my sixth or seventh grade dance, and intermission was with my band, and our singer was suspended. So I had to sing one of the songs which is Motley Crue, “Red Hot”. I had the solo down, and had a guitar parts down. It was really scary, but the response was crazy. I was the cool guy in school for a week. I went back to guitar and I wanted to shred, and I was always the dude that can sing the harmonies. By the time Alice in Chains “Dirt” came out, I was already the harmony guy, and that album was like my Bible. The Jerry Cantrell third part, and the fifth harmonies, stuff like that. I just gravitate towards it because I was doing some music theory with my guitar lessons, and I started learning what the harmonies were, and what harmonies went with which chords. That always made me the guy that would always sing the harmonies live or in the studio. After putting up with vocalists with their LSD, the “lead singers disease” from different bands, I just got the confidence to go ahead and do it and not going to hide behind the guitar. I'm not going to look at my shoes like I'm sad. I'm just going to go for it and so that's what I did with Heaven Below. I don't care who likes it or not, I'm just going to do it. And I’ve been sticking with that ever since.
VIMH: We saw you at Rockin’ the Dells this past summer. You belted out Ozzy’s part in “Close My Eyes Forever”. How did that unfold to sing that part?
PK: Here’s how that happened. When I joined Lita in 2014, somewhere along that time, there was 2 weeks of acoustic shows. LIta asked if I could do acoustic shows with her. I said not only can I do them, I had an acoustic band in the 90’s. Before Union Underground. I had an acoustic trio that played acoustic covers. Not just ballards, anything. It was a tough gig. When you are unplugged and under the microscope, and you have to pull off harmonies, and stuff like that. There’s no room for error. The vocals have to sound good. That’s all there is to it.
She asked to sing the Ozzy part on the acoustic set, and that carried over to the electric set.
VIMH: Is there any new music that's coming out that you’re currently digging? New Bands?
PK: Yeah, there’s a few things that I’m listening to. I love Periphery. I really like what they're doing. Its musical. it's technical. But it's not boring. A lot of times, when bands get too technical, even I lose interest, even though I'm a musician. I lose interest if stuff is too technical. But I really like some of the periphery stuff. There is a lot of good metal bands out there. Lately, I've been going back and listen to old stuff. I just I'm infatuated with the recording from the 70’s and even the 60’s lately. So, lately I’ve been going back and listening to tracks from the 70’s. I’m infatuated with the recording that came out before Pro Tools and before the digital age. So since we’ve been in the studio with Heaven Below, and with Lita’s new stuff, I’ve been really infatuated with the 70’s. I guess I’m going old school.
VIMH: We would love to know what’s in your head. What’s on your playlist currently?
PK: I’m sitting here in my studio, and looking around at all the formats, I listen to different formats of digital stuff. Yeah, I think that's the best heavy metal band ever is Judas Priest. I love the classics. I love ACDC, Iron Maiden, and I don’t care if they’re popular; there’s a reason why they are. I Love Accept, that German metal, the Scorpions. I love all that old stuff. That's what I remember growing up. My first concert was Iron Maiden. WASP opened for them. It was awesome. I thought all concerts were going to be that great, but they weren't. I’m still a mega Alice In Chains fan. I love the new singer William DuVall. He's amazing.
VIMH: Do you have any tour dates coming?
PK: I just got an email there's some killer summer tours that are going to go down with Lita Ford and some and some amazing legendary bands. I can't say yet because the inks not dry. But I promise it's going to be a really awesome bill this summer with us and Lita. In between that I'll be doing Heaven Below here in California and as well as Las Vegas. I don't have the dates in front of me but it's definitely going to have a full schedule and full calendar.
Heaven Below is:
Facebook (Patrick Kennison): https://www.facebook.com/PatrickKennisonMusic/
Facebook (Heaven Below): https://www.facebook.com/heavenbelowband/
Facebook: (Lita Ford): https://www.facebook.com/litaofficial/